by Alan Ayckbourn.

Riverside Studios (Studio 2) Crisp Road Hammersmith W6 9RL To 3 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 8pm Sun 6pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr10min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8237 1111.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 June.

Julia haunts London at last, with an accomplished cast.
This is a good choice for Riverside – Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 play being rare in his repertoire as not intended for performance in the Round (though that’s how it was first seen in Scarborough). The end stage suits a play which focuses tension on what might lie behind a door in the former flat of composer Julia Lukin, dead at 19, her room expanded into a museum by her grieving father.

She died twelve years ago, leaving several unanswered questions. Now it seems she’s revisiting the room, so father Joe brings her former boyfriend Andy and a psychic, Ken, to explore matters. None is quite as straightforward as they first seem, and each has their assumptions questioned, most of all Julia’s father.

This being Ayckbourn, it’s no surprise the debate about what happened and who bears responsibility comes to focus on family pressures. And how these bear on someone already burdened with artistic genius – Julia had been dubbed ‘Little Miss Mozart’ by tabloids more interested in her age than her music.

Discussion of this, the layers of the dramatic onion peeling as the characters essentially stand and speak to each other (occasionally they sit), is supported by occasional laughs and several momentary reminders of the ghostly element. Andrew Hall’s production allows these their moments without overemphasis, while Ayckbourn reserves his big effects till the end – including a visceral shock comparable to the end of Conor McPherson’s talk-based Shining City.

Christopher Timothy’s Joe dominates, his practical, hard-edged manner veering to anger at any challenge. Joe always kept his daughter close in life, and still haunts her spirit – the title can be read two ways – trying to enclose it in his tidied-up monument.

Dominic Hecht brings impatient scepticism, if not much sense of his role on the night Julia died, while Richard O’Callaghan’s psychic with a secret has restricted diction (the character, that is – whose benign calm O’Callaghan captures perfectly).

John Brocking’s set covers the wide stage without dissipating concentration. What does dilute energy is the overlong interval – Scarborough tried it with and without a break, and decided a single act was better.

Joe Lukin: Christopher Timothy.
Andy Rollinson: Dominic Hecht.
Ken Chase: Richard O’Callaghan.
Woman: Louise Kempton.

Director: Andrew Hall.
Designer: John Brocking.
Lighting: Alex Stone.
Sound: Tom Hackley.
Special Effects: The Machine Shop.

2011-06-06 12:35:29

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